“Hello World” through the ages

This is the first of a series of posts on “hello world,” the most ubiquitous of computer programs. But before we get to that, here are some examples of “hello world” through the ages.

Genesis, Book 1:

[1] In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.
[2] And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.
[3] And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.

Genesis, Book 2

[19] And out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air; and brought them unto Adam to see what he would call them: and whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof.
[20] And Adam gave names to all cattle, and to the fowl of the air, and to every beast of the field; but for Adam there was not found an help meet for him.
[21] And the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof;
[22] And the rib, which the LORD God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man.
[23] And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.

[1] And when Abram was ninety years old and nine, the LORD appeared to Abram, and said unto him, I am the Almighty God; walk before me, and be thou perfect.
[2] And I will make my covenant between me and thee, and will multiply thee exceedingly.
[3] And Abram fell on his face: and God talked with him, saying,
[4] As for me, behold, my covenant is with thee, and thou shalt be a father of many nations.

[1] And it came to pass after these things, that God did tempt Abraham, and said unto him, Abraham: and he said, Behold, here I am.
[2] And he said, Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of.
[3] And Abraham rose up early in the morning, and saddled his ass, and took two of his young men with him, and Isaac his son, and clave the wood for the burnt offering, and rose up, and went unto the place of which God had told him.
[4] Then on the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes, and saw the place afar off.
[5] And Abraham said unto his young men, Abide ye here with the ass; and I and the lad will go yonder and worship, and come again to you,
[6] And Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering, and laid it upon Isaac his son; and he took the fire in his hand, and a knife; and they went both of them together.
[7] And Isaac spake unto Abraham his father, and said, My father: and he said, Here am I, my son. And he said, Behold the fire and the wood: but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?

From the Bible, Luke 23:

23:33 And when they were come to the place, which is called Calvary, there they crucified him, and the malefactors, one on the right hand, and the other on the left.
23:34 Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do. And they parted his raiment, and cast lots.
23:35 And the people stood beholding. And the rulers also with them derided him, saying, He saved others; let him save himself, if he be Christ, the chosen of God.

Book I of Homer’s Odyssey:

TELL ME, O MUSE, of that ingenious hero who travelled far and wide
after he had sacked the famous town of Troy. Many cities did he visit,
and many were the nations with whose manners and customs he was
acquainted; moreover he suffered much by sea while trying to save
his own life and bring his men safely home; but do what he might he
could not save his men, for they perished through their own sheer
folly in eating the cattle of the Sun-god Hyperion; so the god
prevented them from ever reaching home. Tell me, too, about all
these things, O daughter of Jove, from whatsoever source you may
know them.

The Koran does not contain the word “hello” but there are numerous instances of “greetings,” including:

And verily, there came Our Messengers to Ibrahim (Abraham) with glad tidings.They said: Salam (greetings or peace!) He answered, Salam (greetings or peace!) and he hastened to entertain them with a roasted calf.

A Shakespeare concordance reveals that the Bard didn’t use the word “hello” but there are several instances of “greetings:” [1]

Romeo And Juliet,Act III, Scene V,Capulet’s orchard

I will omit no opportunity
That may convey my greetings, love, to thee.

The Winter’s Tale,Act V, Scene I

By his command
Have I here touch’d Sicilia and from him
Give you all greetings that a king, at friend,
Can send his brother: and, but infirmity
Which waits upon worn times hath something seized
His wish’d ability, he had himself
The lands and waters ‘twixt your throne and his
Measured to look upon you; whom he loves–
He bade me say so–more than all the sceptres
And those that bear them living.

All’s Well That Ends Well.Act I, Scene III

Why, Helen, thou shalt have my leave and love,
Means and attendants and my loving greetings
To those of mine in court: I’ll stay at home
And pray God’s blessing into thy attempt:
Be gone to-morrow; and be sure of this,
What I can help thee to thou shalt not miss.

King Henry VI, Part III,Act III, Scene III

From worthy Edward, King of Albion,
My lord and sovereign, and thy vowed friend,
I come, in kindness and unfeigned love,
First, to do greetings to thy royal person;
And then to crave a league of amity;
And lastly, to confirm that amity
With a nuptial knot, if thou vouchsafe to grant
That virtuous Lady Bona, thy fair sister,
To England’s king in lawful marriage.

Antony and Cleopatra. Act IV, Scene V

Go, Eros, send his treasure after; do it;
Detain no jot, I charge thee: write to him–
I will subscribe–gentle adieus and greetings;
Say that I wish he never find more cause
To change a master. O, my fortunes have
Corrupted honest men! Dispatch.–Enobarbus!

King Richard II,Act III, Scene I

My Lord Northumberland, see them dispatch’d.
[Exeunt NORTHUMBERLAND and others, with the
Uncle, you say the queen is at your house;
For God’s sake, fairly let her be entreated:
Tell her I send to her my kind commends;
Take special care my greetings be deliver’d.

Coriolanus,Act II, Scene I

[To VOLUMNIA and VIRGILIA] Your hand, and yours:
Ere in our own house I do shade my head,
The good patricians must be visited;
From whom I have received not only greetings,
But with them change of honours.

From Bach and Mozart: “Hello world. Here is more musical perfection.” [2]

From Beethoven, Symphony No. 5 (Beethoven): “Hello world. I have redefined the symphony.”

From Beethoven, who while then deaf could still speak to the world with his music: Symphony No. 9 (Beethoven). The choral ending is based on Schiller’s “Ode to Joy”:


O Freunde, nicht diese Töne!
Sondern lasst uns angenehmere
anstimmen und freudenvollere.
Freude! Freude!


Oh friends, not these tones!
Rather let us sing more
cheerful and more joyful ones.
Joy! Joy!

Moby-Dick: “Call Me Ishmael.”

Alexander Graham Bell while inventing the Telephone: 10 March 1876 Bell transmits speech “Mr. Watson, come here, I want you.” using a liquid transmitter and an electromagnetic receiver.

Guglielmo Marconi radios “Hello, Europe:” On 17 December 1902, a transmission from the Marconi station in Glace Bay, Nova Scotia, Canada, became the first radio message to cross the Atlantic in an eastward direction. On 18 January 1903, a Marconi station built near Wellfleet, Massachusetts in 1901 sent a message of greetings from Theodore Roosevelt, the President of the United States, to King Edward VII of the United Kingdom, marking the first transatlantic radio transmission originating in the United States.

1940 England to Europe:

The summer of 1940 brought an end to the BBC tradition of nameless newsreaders – at least for a time. The BBC explained that, in wartime, listeners “must be able to recognise instantly the authentic voice of BBC broadcasting”.

It was on the lunchtime news of 13 July 1940 that Frank Phillips became the first reader to identify himself. But concern persisted that, named or not, the newsreaders all sounded the same – and it wouldn’t be too hard for the Germans to imitate them.

Next came the realization that the three short notes and one long at the start of Beethoven’s Fifth echoed the Morse
code for “victory”. The V sound on drums immediately became the call sign of all the BBC’s European services.

1948 Harry S. Truman, “The Buck Stops Here”

March 1962: Caltech: “Hello dave, you have a four year full-tuition-plus scholarship.”

Fall 1962. Caltech: “Hello, Dave. You scored 4 out of 60 possible points in your first physics midterm. The class high was 12.” Dave to self, “This is going to be harder than thought.”

In March 1964 I saw a sign on a Caltech bulletin board offering a round-trip to New York for $60, as one of my classmates was driving home to Boston for spring break in his station wagon and wanted help with driving and paying for gas. I spent one of the most wonderful weeks in my life in New York city, staying with one of my high-school classmates who was at Columbia. I was so overwhelmed by NYC that within a few days I recall vividly vowing to myself that I would spend at least five years in NYC before I turned thirty.

I met my wife on February 21, 1967. Our life-long relationship began with our saying hello to each other. I remember the date because I learned later her birthday was the 20th, and we all know the 22nd is G. Washington’s birthday. We have been celebrating what we call out “meet-aversary” for almost four decdes, and if all goes well, will celebrate our 40th in Rome next February.

July 1996: Jikes correctly compiles “Hello world” program.


1. I had planned to include only one example from Shakespeare, but his language is so compelling that I kept on going.

2. The Morgan library in New York City has a wonderful collection of musical manuscripts: Mozart’s is notable for its clarity, Beethoven’s is much harder to read, as one can sense the titanic energy behind his creativity that led to his hammering the notes onto the page. There is a wonderful scene in the movie “Amadeus” Amadeus (1984) described by the critic Roger Ebert as follows:

Almost-great writers (Mann, Galsworthy, Wolfe) make it look like Herculean triumph. It is as true in every field; compare Shakespeare to Shaw, Jordan to Barkley, Picasso to Rothko, Kennedy to Nixon. Salieri could strain and moan and bring forth tinkling jingles; Mozart could compose so joyously that he seemed, Salieri complained, to be “taking dictation from God.”

3. Karin thought she would never see me again because I didn’t ask for her phone number. I didn’t ask for it because, using the circuitous logic of mathematics, I had learned that her roommate worked at Courant and so knew I could learn the number by asking her roommate. I was also inexperienced in using the phone because I grew up in a house without a phone. My mother said we didn’t have a phone because she didn’t want to miss any calls. Looking back I realize we didn’t have a phone because she couldn’t afford one. When I got to Caltech I had to ask my roommate how to use the phone to ask a girl our for a date — I was that inexperienced.

Copyright (c) 2006 by David Shields. Licensed under the Apache License 2.0.

2 Trackbacks

  1. […] several posts about the most ubiquitous of computer programs, “Hello World.” See “Hello World” through the ages, “Hello World” and programming, “Hello World” and Twit-messaging, and Dave Shields HELLO […]

  2. By Google Optimization « The Wayward Word Press on March 16, 2009 at 10:53

    […] “Hello World” through the ages. And out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field, … The Koran does not contain the word “hello” […]

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